MURRIETA (CBS) — An ex-con who caused a crash that killed a U.S. Navy corpsman and his family near Winchester was convicted today of murder and other charges.
Chad Isaac Huber, 33, could face 171 years to life in prison when he is sentenced by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Albert Wojcik on Jan. 7.
A Murrieta jury spent all of Wednesday and this morning deliberating before finding Huber guilty of three counts of second-degree murder and felony hit-and-run in the June 29, 2008, deaths of Andres Cruz Sanagustin, 48, his 36-year-old wife, Maribeth, and their 4-year-old son, Angelo.
“Even with these guilty verdicts, this is a sad day because of the loss of these three lives,” said Deputy District Attorney Chris Bouffard. “If I could exchange these verdicts for those lives, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
According to the California Highway Patrol, Huber was driving his GMC pickup truck in excess of 100 mph when he crossed into oncoming traffic on Warren Road, just south of Borel Road, and smashed into Sanagustin’s Chevy Malibu.
The Camp Pendleton-based serviceman and his wife died at the scene, while their son survived long enough to reach a nearby hospital before dying.
The nighttime collision occurred within an hour of Huber and his friend, Jarred Benjamin Abatti, leaving a bar, investigators said. Huber did several shots and drank an unknown quantity of beer before hitting the road, according to trial testimony.
Abatti and Huber were en route to the defendant’s Temecula apartment — with Abatti following in his own pickup — when the crash happened.
Witnesses reported that the two trucks were darting in and out of southbound traffic and going around slower vehicles by crossing into opposing lanes. Sanagustin’s Malibu was struck head-on, with the driver’s side of the sedan crushed inward.
The 25-year-old Abatti later admitted that he knew his friend was drunk, according to court documents.
After Huber plowed into the victim’s car, he jumped out of his damaged pickup and got into Abatti’s, and the two drove to a San Diego motel.
Abatti pleaded guilty in October 2008 to felony hit-and-run and being an accessory to a crime and was sentenced to five years probation.
Huber reported that his pickup had been stolen by his ex-wife and fled to Mexico, where he was captured months later.
“The verdicts by this jury should be a message that, if you drink and drive recklessly as this defendant did, you can be charged with and convicted of murder — even without having any prior impaired driving convictions,” Bouffard said.
Huber was previously convicted of battery and assault on a peace officer.
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